Reasons for Fasting – Purpose in Christianity
There are many benefits to fasting and as Christians it is important to understand how fasting helps us in our walk and in our prayer life as well.
Fasting was a common practice in biblical times; many times, throughout both Testaments, we see instances of people fasting for various reasons. In the Jewish culture, everyone would have understood the culture and spiritual meaning of fasting. However, in our modern society, this is not something that we often think about. Is fasting still relevant to us as believers in the 21st century? And if so, what would be some valid reasons for fasting?
As we reflect on the occurrence of fasting in the Bible, it is clear to see that fasting is associated with solemnness and sorrow. It is precisely the opposite of feasting, which accompanies celebration and joy. While fasting is typically mentioned in the context of food, it can simply refer to the willful giving up of anything earthly we enjoy. Fasting, symbolically, is meant to refocus our attention on God and our need for Him. It is not the mere act itself that is holy, but the mindset that goes along with it. Joel 2:12 (KJV) says, “Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.” Fasting, then, is a period during which we should be in constant prayer, repenting of our sins and recommitting our lives to Christ.
Fasting can also be applied to specific situations. For example, in the Bible it was common for people to fast when their loved ones had fallen sick or died. In Psalm 35:13, King David says, “But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.” Out of love for those who were afflicted, and out of fervent faith in God, David fasted. And the key word he uses here is “humble.” Essentially, fasting is a way for us to come before God in humility, acknowledging our human weakness in light of His awesome power. If a dear friend or family member is sick, then just like David, we can fast and pray for their healing. If someone close to us has died, we can fast and pray for our healing. If we realize we have sinned, we can fast and pray for forgiveness and restoration. So what is the common thread in all of these reasons? Prayer.
If we seek to draw close to God, we must come to Him in prayer. We can tell Him our fears, our anxieties, confess our sins, make our humble requests, and give thanks. All of these things are reasons to pray, and thus, all of them can be reasons to fast. Even today, there are many situations that fasting can be applicable to. It is not required for salvation, nor is it a ritual that everyone is directly mandated to complete. However, it is a practice that can greatly enhance our relationship with God, if we truly understand and adhere to the meaning behind it.